Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. Supreme Court wrote the majority opinion, which had unanimous approval from the other justices on the majority of the filing.
In the case of Delaware v. Pennsylvania et al., which involved intangible property escheated to a state, Jackson wrote the opinion. The case concerned a disagreement about whether state was allowed to escheat $300 million in uncashed checks issued by MoneyGram Payment Systems between Delaware and 30 other states.
“We hold that the FDA covers the instruments in question and that they should generally escheat to the State of purchase, pursuant to §2503,” Jackson said, adding that there would be an “inequitable” escheatment if only Delaware was permitted to lay claim to the assets.
“When a financial product operates like a money order— i.e., when it is a prepaid written instrument used to transmit money to a named payee—and when it would also escheat inequitably solely to the State of incorporation of the company holding the funds under our common-law rules due to recordkeeping gaps, then it is sufficiently ‘similar’ to a money order to fall presumptively within the FDA,” Jackson explained. “Such is the case with the Disputed Instruments. And nothing in the parties’ arguments, the Special Master’s Second Interim Report, or the record in these cases persuades us that the Disputed Instruments should be deemed ‘third party bank checks.’”
“The Supreme Court rejected that argument, and Delaware—a state that typically rakes in major revenue from unclaimed property—also unsuccessfully argued that it was entitled to keep the funds at issue because MoneyGram is incorporated in the state,” Law and Crime reported.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week over President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive student loan debt in a different case.
The nation’s top court appeared to imply that their decision may break Democrats’ hearts. The 6-3 conservative majority might follow the same strategy that led to the historic repeal of the Obama administration’s power plant emissions limit.
Prior to the midterm elections last year, the Biden administration tried to forgive $430 billion in student debt.
“About 45 million U.S. borrowers hold $1.6 trillion in federal student loan debt, with the typical undergraduate finishing college with $25,000 in debt, according to White House figures. Many borrowers experienced financial strain during the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning in 2020, the administrations of President Donald Trump, a Republican, and Biden, a Democrat, repeatedly paused federal student loan payments and halted interest from accruing,” Reuters reported.
“Both administrations relied upon a 2003 federal law called the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act, or HEROES Act, that allows student loan debt relief during wartime or national emergencies. Biden relied upon the HEROES Act when he unveiled plans to cancel up to $10,000 in federal student debt for Americans making under $125,000 and $20,000 for recipients of Pell grants awarded to students from lower-income families,” the outlet added.
A number of conservative judges have already expressed doubt about letting a federal agency make such broad judgments.
“It now looms over any big agency action that the administration wants to do,” University of San Diego law professor Mila Sohoni said of the major questions doctrine. “The doctrine allows courts a great deal of leeway to pick and choose which agency actions to strike down and which to sustain.”
Since Biden took office in 2021, the justices have used this doctrine to limit the EPA’s ability to control carbon emissions from power plants, stymie his COVID-19 vaccination or testing mandate for large businesses, and prevent the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from extending eviction protections for cash-strapped residential renters.
The major questions doctrine, according to Chief Justice John Roberts in his opinion on the EPA case, “developed over a series of significant cases, all addressing a particular and recurring problem: agencies asserting highly consequential power beyond what Congress could reasonably be understood to have granted.”
However, detractors contend that the HEROES Act was only meant to help student loan borrowers in the U.S. military who were affected by the Global War on Terror at the time and was not meant to be applied to any other “national emergency.”
The use of these orders, also referred to as countrywide injunctions, has drawn criticism from Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas. Biden used one of these orders with the HEROES Act.
The giveaway scheme was suspended last year by U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman of the District Court in Northern Texas, writing, “No one can plausibly deny that it is either one of the largest delegations of legislative power to the executive branch or one of the largest exercises of legislative power without congressional authority in the history of the United States.”
“The Court is not blind to the current political division in our country. But it is fundamental to the survival of our Republic that the separation of powers as outlined in our Constitution be preserved. And having interpreted the HEROES Act, the Court holds that it does not provide ‘clear congressional authorization’ for the Program proposed by the Secretary,” he added.